Substantive short articles on Marxian sociology

Self-Exploitation in China

Under Deng Xiaoping’s famous slogan, “liberating the productive forces” (jie fang sheng chan li), the official policy of liberal reform – strong state intervention in the labor market – has worked in support of commodification of labor, rather than constructing a system of social welfare that restricts the impact of market forces in China. When it comes to the price for labor power, there are two kinds of remuneration: the direct and the indirect salary (or fringe benefits). The first resembles what we know as hourly wage, whereas the second “is redistributed through a social agency.” For most welfare states, this social agency refers to the State, or a statutory agency that manages the social security fund, for example. As regards the Chinese context, it is the household solidarity characterized by auto-exploitation and auto-deprivation of rural households that has played this role.

By |2020-05-27T13:23:11-04:00May 27, 2020|

Precarity and the Politics of Existential Crisis

How we navigate this moment of intense uncertainty and collective anxiety will shape the future. Thinking about the many ways that our precarity manifests will be crucial to avoid re-inscribing the inequalities and injustices of the pre-coronavirus world.

By |2020-05-13T14:37:28-04:00May 13, 2020|

An Organic Crisis Is Upon Us

While all of the various crises that comprise the larger organic crisis are inextricable, I’ve tried to map out in schematic form a number of the crises I see cascading across our conjuncture. As you will see, it’s nearly impossible to talk about one without talking about all, but that’s what I’ve tried to do here: provide a roadmap to the organic crisis that’s only just begun.

By |2020-05-06T16:39:58-04:00May 1, 2020|

Financial Crisis, Capitalist Power and US State Exceptionalism

Capitalists exercise disproportionate political power through both the state and the market, and their power derives primarily from the productive assets they hold. However, over the last 40 years, the assets of the rich have been financialized. This has increased their ability to exit political territories through capital markets. While this increases the power of capitalists to avoid expropriation demands, unique characteristics about the American state might make it best positioned to take finance on. 

By |2020-04-29T10:34:58-04:00Apr 29, 2020|

Is China Socialist or Capitalist? How Marxism Breaks the Binary

In China, contrary to the usual sequence, the socialist revolution preceded, rather than followed, the democratic breakthrough. For China to progress beyond its current early socialist stage, massive political change will be needed, and this poses serious challenges for the Chinese Communist Party. This way of looking at China does not coincide with CCP official doctrines, of a “harmonious society,” “market socialism with Chinese characteristics,” and the “Chinese dream.” But it also rejects the very common facile Western notion that China’s society is “capitalist,” or has been since the death of Mao and the reform and opening-up policies were promulgated. Socialist ideology has sunk deep roots in the country’s political consciousness, and this is a real force – just as the classical philosophies of earlier Chinese social formations were a force exceeding their material foundations.

By |2020-04-23T11:13:45-04:00Apr 23, 2020|

Erich Fromm’s Marxist Sociology Forty Years Later

Looking back on Fromm’s legacy today, at a point where sociologists and Marxists are increasingly returning to his work, it is clear that what Fromm left us is a nuanced form of Marxian sociology that can help account for the relations between economic life, political movements, and inner emotional dynamism that underpin many of the changes that we are witness to in the current world situation. In a situation that is rapidly moving into dangerous territory, in what promises to be a recession as deep as 1929, we could do worse today than to look to Fromm for assistance.

By |2020-04-08T11:41:49-04:00Apr 8, 2020|